Thursday, November 10, 2011

A little bit of Paris in Toronto

I'm looking forward to tonight's public lecture, Eating Words: The Art of Food Blogging by Parisienne food blogger, Clotilde Dusoulier. She pens  the award-winning blog, and she has a current book, Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris! Here's the best part: she's been invited by Stratford Chef  School to speak at George Brown College in Toronto on Thursday November 10th, 2011.

And what great timing!

Hubby just suggested that our 5th wedding anniversary in 2014 should be celebrated in romantic Paris! He has never been there, whereas I've been there long, long time ago....

Ahhh, Paris of 1988...  A solo 2-wheeled foodies adventure in Paris in the summer of 1988. Yes, I pedalled and ate my way through France and parts of Europe as well. A trip to France begs a stop in Paris, whether on foot or bike.  I celebrated my birthday with a treat from a crepe food cart on a street lined with quirky antiques shops filled with relics too big to fit into my MEC panniers...  Paris, the city with a decadent patisserie every street corner (yes, the avid cyclist in me was able to justify having dessert twice a day to make up for the long rides. I long to go back to revisit old haunts and discover new ones...

Did I also mention that along the way in 1988, I collected cookbooks and postcards printed with delicious local recipes.... I think I'm long overdue to go back and add a few more cookbooks to my collection...

I can't wait to meet Clotilde Dusouslier and discover what new foodies adventure awaits us... stay tuned or À Bientôt! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let Us Not Forget... 11/11/11

Halloween flashed by... As we enter into a new month, it keeps getting darker earlier, and nights are dark longer... we slow down, reflect and remember deceased loved ones on All Saints' Day (November 1st) and All Souls' Day (November 2nd).

Noticed lately as you watch the news on TV, that the anchors are wearing their red poppies? Stroll along the streets of Toronto and you'll start to  see them pinned on coats or blazers or hats (yes, yours truly has done that in the past and will do it again this year).  Yes, Remembrance Day is coming. Let us not forget...

If you are within the vicinity of the University of Toronto, drop by on Friday for the Remembrance Day service by Solders' Memorial Tower as this year is 11/11/11.

Growing up in Toronto, it was a tradition into high school years to recite on Remembrance Day In Flanders Fields poem written by John McCrae, an Alumni of Victoria College at University of Toronto. Those of you, who attended my Haunted Yorkville, U of T & Queen's Parks Walks, would have seen his haunting poem carved on a special wall close by Solders' Memorial Tower. If you've had wedding photographs taken nearby Soldiers' Memorial Tower you might have stood right by it and didn't see it as it's fading with the weathering of time and the elements...

In Flanders Fields 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row.
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. 
                        - John McCrae (November 30, 1872- January 28, 1918

While you're there, get into the long line-up and go through this beautiful wooden doorway. Climb up the stairs to the Soldiers' Memorial Tower Room. You'll find it will be time well spent chatting with the remaining veterans.  Take the time to examine the treasured items housed up there... Take the time to contemplate how much has been sacrificed for our freedom...

Thank you for remembering to
wear your red poppy 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Toronto, the Multicultural Feast, Harvest & Meeting Place

Toronto, the Meeting Place ... the meeting place for so many diverse cultures since 1792 ... the Meeting Place for four seasonal bounties.... the Meeting Place for sharing diverse ways to cook the local and seasonal harvest ...

As we enter into the month of November, we're right in the thick of Fall Harvest. A season for all the senses! Witness the burst of colours in any of the Toronto markets thanks to the pumpkins, squashes, peppers and dried corn on the cobs ...  Throughout Halloween ghost walks madness, my husband  and I survived on my hearty Fall Harvest soups made ahead of time. We had my Persian Spinach Soup (minty meatballs floating in a thick broth of spinach, eggs and loads of sweet Ontario onions).  We supped on Ontario Leek and organic Sweet Potato Soup. We savoured my Salmon Bouillabaisse with multi-coloured Ontario carrots. Yes, this year, I decided to support cook and eat as much local and organic ingredients as possible while sticking to a tight tour guide's budget.

I look forward to the remaining weekends for this month as I shop and try out new produces.

I can't wait for the next Saturdays (November 12th, 19th) when I drop into Kensington Market along my Kensington Foodies Roots Walks with my camera and shopping bags in tow. This coming Saturday November 12th, I'm thinking of I asking fellow shoppers along the streets plus guests on the walking tour, how they'll use Brussels sprouts ... Of course, I'll share what I plan to cook in the next while ...  the lovely Brussels Sprouts  - I'll try again Chef David Lee's fiery recipe for Thai-style Brussels Sprouts in the Saturday October 22, 2011 edition of The Globe & Mail  ... and then make another favourite Brussels Sprouts dish, where I'll steam and then marinade them in Treadwell's fragrant Baco Noir & Blueberry Balsamic Vinegar.  Now, what about those lovely pie pumpkins?  I think Cinderella just found out what happened to her pumpkin stage coach at the stroke of midnight! It became Pumpkin baklavas or cheesecakes or cupcakes or muffins or pancakes or risotto or soup or waffles! Did I miss anything? What do YOU plan to do with any of the above mentioned?

Stay tuned for Toronto's multicultural holiday celebrations as I revisit Kensington Market with new eyes, palate and other senses along the Kensington Festive Foodies Roots Walks on Saturday December 3rd, 10th & 17th, 2011.  Yes, I love all the holidays, so we celebrate not one, but all the Festivals of Light: Diwali, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Channukah and Kawanzaa. Of course, the best part of the celebrations -  the spirit of sharing the foods, the drinks, the changing customs and traditions of your own culture with others!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Toronto: November 1st, 2011 All Saints' Day

Victorian Lady aka Shirley Lum,
guide during Halloween Week Ghost Walks

How more appropriate could it have been that on Monday October 31st, 2011 we celebrated All Hallows Eve or Halloween along the Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & The Grange Walk. It's suppose to be the vigil of the Feast (the eve). And feast we did.  I kicked-off at Moon Bean Cafe with a ghost story complete with eerie multicultural twists, while guests noshed on Chocolate Rugullahs and sipped Hot Chocolates.  We reflected over how many consider Halloween pagan (and in many instances the celebrations are for many), as far as the Church is concerned the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints. Many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast's vigils we mock evil, because as Christians, it has no real power over us. However, for some Halloween is used for evil purposes, in which many Christians dabble unknowingly. 

Dia de los Muertes window display
Courage My Love 2011
    In the Middle Ages, poor people in the community begged for "soul cakes," and upon receiving th
ese doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls. This is the root of our modern day "Trick-or-Treat." The custom of masks and costumes developed to mock evil and perhaps confuse the evil spirits by dressing as one of their own. Some Christians visit cemeteries on Halloween, not to practice evil, but to commemorate departed relatives and friends, with picnics and the last flowers of the year.  Over the last few years, I've noticed more Mexican venues within Kensington Market and celebration of Dia de los Muertes (Day of the Dead) is becoming more mainstream. 

Look up!
At ROM's steps between the two
Marble Lions
How even more appropriate that tonight, Tuesday November 1st, 2011, All Saints' Day, I'll be conducting the Haunted Yorkville, U of T & Queen's Park Walk.  Guests will be haunted by a ghost story told  over delicious Hungarian Coffee Cakes and hot coffee at the oldest remaining cafe in Yorkville Village. I'll be leading my guests through one of Toronto's most oldest and revered university, and we will celebrate all the saints as we stroll through Victoria College (Methodist), St Michael College (Catholic), UC (non-denominational), and Trinity College (Anglican). All the while, I'll be sharing eerie ghost stories and slipping in Toronto's fascinating history in these three adjoining neighbourhoods.  

The day after All Saints day is called All Soul's Day,  a day to remember and offer prayers up on behalf of all of the faithful departed. I'm sure tonight's guests will be reflecting over some of the haunting tales on this day.  In many cultures it seems the two days share many customs. What customs do you still practise at this time of the year? Feel free to share

Art Deco Period costume perfect for
Millionaire's Row aka Queen's Park Circle